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Letters | 2023 VMAA Annual Report and 2023 AGM Recap

Updated: Jun 9, 2023


Territory Acknowledgment

Ingrid Valou

The Vancouver Metal Arts Association operates on unceded and ancestral Coast Salish territories.

The Metro Vancouver region cuts through the traditional lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, the Semiahma (Semiahmoo Nation) and the Stó:lō peoples, including the Katzie, Kwantlen, Kwikwetlem and Qayqayt Nations, and the treaty lands of the Tsawwassen Nation.

We recognize their rights as peoples who have tended the lands and waters of this place since time immemorial, passing on rich and diverse craft traditions that continue to evolve today.

Most of our members are uninvited visitors and settlers. As our organization carries out our mandate to forge connection, opportunity and community among metal and jewellery artists, we also strive to cultivate relationships of reciprocal respect through our projects and programming. We aim to do our own part to elevate the visibility of local Nations, whose lineage of craft, design and art as culture stretches back into the mists of time.

I invite you to join me in this work and to spare a moment for the relationship you have with the lands from which your ancestors came, as well as the ones upon which you dwell today.

President's Report

Ingrid Valou

2023 marks ten years of the Vancouver Metal Arts Association, and fittingly, the 2022-2023 year was a milestone year for our organization. This year, we raised our first significant external funds, conducted community outreach, helped kickstart a new residency for metal artists in downtown Vancouver, and found new collaborators in the community of craft. Moreover, our fantastic board and exhibitions committee continued to deliver robust exhibitions programming, as VMAA has done so for the past decade.

The Vancouver Metal Arts Association is in good standing and in good hands.

Before I continue, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Monique Huynh for putting together the gorgeous presentation featured this AGM, and really helping to bring alive our work of the past year.

Grants and Development Committee Report

We launched the Grants and Development Committee to learn how we could build long-term sustainability and explore the eventual creation of paid staff positions for the Vancouver Metal Arts Association. This report summarizes the committee’s efforts and achievements over the past couple of years.

From January 2022 through to April 2023, the committee submitted a total of four grants, all on a new project aimed at exploring the feasibility of building a metal arts hub in the Vancouver region.

We learned in March 2022 that our first attempt (to the BC Arts Council) was unsuccessful; however, the program advisor advised us that our project held promise. We requested feedback on our application and adjusted our approach in subsequent attempts. I note that the process of incorporating the feedback helped clarify and mature our organizational policies on volunteerism.

In May 2022, we secured $15,000 in funding from the City of Vancouver’s Cultural Spaces – Small Grants stream for the first phase of this feasibility study, the outcomes of which we will report on later today.

As for the final two grants, I am pleased to announce that the British Columbia Arts Council has recently awarded $25,000 from their Arts Infrastructure program for the second stage of the feasibility study. We are still awaiting the adjudication results from the final grant, also to the City of Vancouver, and anticipate learning the results by mid-May.

These funds are restricted to the projects for which they are intended. However, I am pleased to report that this is the first time VMAA has been able to invest in community knowledge and compensate part-time VMAA staff while building capacity and retaining project management experience in the community.

Printermedia Artist Residency - Metal Arts Program

In September 2022, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Malaspina Printmakers Society to support their launch of a new residency. VMAA board members supported the collection and acquisition of benches and equipment to begin outfitting the space, as well as helping jury the inaugural cohort.

The residency was originally intended to span six months – however, due to the initial hard work necessary to build out the space, including the creation of policies for safety (still ongoing), it was agreed-upon that the current residents have first right of refusal to extend their residency through to an end date of their choice, through to the end of 2024.

We have been very fortunate that this cohort is comprised of five ambitious, hardworking and collaborative artists: Cicy Ching, Maura Tamez, Rob Van Yperen, Eunhui Stella Lee and Celeste Lucero. They are presently hard at work on an art jewellery exhibition of their own, with the working title of “Metal and Adornment: [as] Our Language.”

We recently introduced them through an Artist Selection post. You may read it here.

Feasibility Study: Vancouver Metal Arts Hub

(Phase 1: Community Needs Assessment)

The feasibility study explores the building of an inclusive, accessible metal arts hub to anchor the Metro Vancouver metal and jewellery arts community.

I would like to take this opportunity to openly acknowledge with gratitude the funds granted by the City of Vancouver through its Cultural Spaces - Small Grants stream.

Thanks to these funds, we were able to compensate 19 artists consulted through the interviews and focus groups.

Later in the agenda, we will hear from Iris Lo, the project and research coordinator, on some of the takeaways from this community needs assessment.

(Phase 2: Financial & Operational Feasibility)

These takeaways, and your feedback on them, will form the basis of future work on the topic. I am pleased to say we have confirmed part of the funding to continue the feasibility study. The generous contributions of the BC Arts Council will enable us to continue this project, with the hoped-for outcomes being a set of financial and operational models for a community metal arts hub.

Once these are developed, we will assess them for feasibility (affordability and availability of space). One of the by-products of this study, regardless of the eventual build of the metal arts hub, is to make available these best practices (i.e. cultural safety protocols and language around right relationships, resources on finding insurance, etc.) to anyone who may choose to use them. This could mean small studio collectives, private metalsmithing or art space operators, or other arts organizations and not-for-profits doing comparable work.

We want this to be open-source across the region, and the nation, if necessary.

(Phase 3: Site Feasibility and Implementation Roadmap)

Upon completion of the second phase, we will have an idea of how long, and how many iterations it would take to create a feasible, sustainable space in the region. Depending on the outcomes of this study, we will proceed to identify potential sites and create a roadmap to identify the step changes necessary to achieve our vision.

This would conclude the feasibility study, and we will likely begin fundraising or explore partnerships to build this site.


I would like to recognize two board members who have taught me a great deal since the day I joined the board: former Vice President Ange Adair and Exhibitions Chair Clarissa Long. Both were instrumental in renewing VMAA's strength as an organization thanks to their incredible diligence, competence and proactive support. Both will be stepping down this year. I am deeply grateful for their guidance, saddened by their departure, and excited to see what is next for them.

This concludes the President’s Report.

Treasurer's Report

Ryan Caron

Reporting on the fiscal year 2022 January 1 to December 31.

This year has seen dramatic growth and change in operations. We received our first public arts grant from the City of Vancouver, which launched our ambitious and ongoing Metal Arts Hub study. At the same time, our regular operations were slowed, with the decision to take two years of development time for our next juried group exhibition, rather than our usual one.

Without that tentpole event in our season, membership has declined. The current number of members in good standing is 52. This is a planned and expected decline that we anticipate reversing in the coming year with the next exhibition.

We ended the year with a healthy sum in our bank account, more than three-quarters of which is allocated to the metal arts hub study. This leaves us a modest cushion in unrestricted funds. There is a noted 15% decline from last year, reflecting our annual operating costs in a year with no exhibition. Note this is still a very healthy buffer, an estimated five times our annual operating cost.

We are moving forward into 2023 with funding from the BC Arts Council towards the second phase of the Metal Arts Hub Study.

Exhibitions Report

Clarissa Long

Gifted (2022 & 2023)

This past year VMAA hosted our third edition of the Gifted Holiday Show in partnership with Circle Craft. The show featured 5 local members and 10 pieces were sold (one more than the previous year). Fewer members applied this year due to an unanticipatedly accelerated timeline for both submission and setup; we aim to ease out logistics kinks with the venue this year, and look forward to providing members with adequate time to arrange submissions.

Our purpose with this annual sales show is:

  1. To provide a selling opportunity to VMAA members;

  2. To expose the local public to jewellery work they might not otherwise have seen. (Circle Craft mandates the work not be similar to any currently in the store, which works in our favour). This aligns with a VMAA goal - to educate and inform re: the broad inclusive field that is jewellery / objects beyond the traditional;

  3. To promote VMAA as an arts organization - its artists, events, projects, goals, to ensure growing success.

We plan to run this show again next year and have agreed upon some new terms with Circle Craft. The show dates would be November 23-December 24, with the setup completed on November 22.

We will be using the same four display cases, but will be utilizing the height of the cases with risers so that more pieces can be displayed. The exhibition will be intact for the duration of the show and each artist would be required to send 6 pieces. We will send out the call for jurying on August 1, so that it gives artists enough notice before the busy holiday season begins, and interested artists may wish to take note now!

Activations at Gifted 2023

To encourage sales, we may have VMAA members present at times throughout the show, and a potential artist gathering on the opening day with a raffle draw. We also asked Circle Craft to have an ongoing line of communication with one of our committee members, in which we could be updated with sales weekly, and so we can help ensure the display is always at capacity. Lastly, we would like to see VMAA promoted more through the show and would like to include some more information about our organization available at the show.

Maker's Mark

This past year, VMAA also supported a contemporary jewellery exhibition hosted at Burrard Arts Foundation. The exhibition included four VMAA artists and was curated by member Clarissa Long. VMAA provided a stipend of $200 and loaned some of our floating shelves for display.

Printermedia Group Exhibition

Our 2023 programming will include support for the Metal Art Printermedia Artist Residency exhibition. We will offer aid in the execution of an exhibition for the artist residents. The show will be planned for mid-June for one month.

Annual Group Exhibition

VMAA will be hosting another group show at the CCBC Gallery in 2024. CCBC Executive Director Raine has informed us that the dates are still to be announced, but that they will notify us when things have been firmed up. In the meantime, we will begin the preliminary organizing and brainstorming for the show. We plan to announce the call for entry on September 1st, with a submission deadline of the end of January 2024.


Lastly, it has been a pleasure to serve as the Chair of Exhibitions over the past few years. It is with bittersweetness that I will be stepping down as Chair to concentrate on professional and personal endeavours. I will remain on the committee to assist with the onboarding of the new chair-elect Celeste Lucero, whom we are very excited for everyone to meet today.

As always, I would like to acknowledge and give gratitude to my fellow exhibitions committee members for their assistance and support over the past year.

This concludes the Exhibitions report.

Project Report: Community Needs Assessment Outcomes

Iris Lo


The project team would like to thank the City of Vancouver, Cultural Spaces Grant for supporting VMAA in undertaking this stage of the study. In addition, I would like to thank our numerous value-in-kind supporters, whose Letters of Support helped us in securing funding for this project as well as providing support and guidance through our study.

I would also like to thank our consultants, City in Colour, who we worked hand in hand with on this study and coded our interviews and provided insights and recommendations on our findings.

Study overview & method

The feasibility study explores the building of an inclusive, accessible metal arts hub to anchor the Metro Vancouver metal and jewellery arts community. We conducted our interviews and focus groups from January to March of this year and in total have 19 metal/jewellery-based artists who have participated. The artists who participated varied from established to early career, differences in practice (from engraving to production to contemporary art), and 15 of the artists identified as being from an equity-deserving community, including newcomers, queer, and Indigenous.


From our findings, we found that in general, the greatest barrier or challenge that practicing metal/jewellery artists face is access to affordable, suitable, and safe studio spaces. The lack of affordable space has resulted in hardships gaining community support or mentorships, practicing in unsafe conditions, or limiting their practice. Multiple artists shared feeling isolated due to limited studio space or having to work from home to eliminate "double rent." An additional barrier expressed by Indigenous artists interviewed was the systemic segregation and stigma they faced when looking for gallery or retail opportunities.

Our recommendations for creating a safe, inclusive, and accessible Metal Arts Hub that fulfils the needs of the community and centres Indigenous prosperity is divided into 5 primary themes: space design needs, internal policies, operations, affordability, and decolonization.

Primary recommendations for space design are to emphasize safety of artists’ physical bodies, of feeling (such as welcoming and inclusive), and of tools (proper handling and maintenance of tools and equipment). In addition, when building out or planning of a space, an Indigenous design consultant should be contracted early on in the process to ensure the centering of Indigenous voices. Other recommendations include ease of access in location and having secure, lockable safes or spaces.

Most artists emphasised the need and value of a space for knowledge or skill-sharing; this can be realised by either having a social area (such as a kitchen or large table), gallery or retail space, and having a shared resource library of jewellery-specific books, tools, and equipment.

Another key recommendation for success is the need for clear internal policies and community guidelines. Most artists shared that communal studios have broken down or struggled due to the lack of present and clear policies. A full-time, on-site studio manager or technician was also deemed mandatory for a shared space that may see rotating artists.

Since affordability and access to space were shared as the highest barrier towards practice, and we recommend providing funding opportunities for equity-seeking communities or early career artists as well as a sliding scale for multiple rent options. In addition, to offset costs and also to educate the public on the value of metalwork, to consider incorporating some form of retail or exhibition space that can be used for events, but also allows for Indigenous artists to curate their works and be displayed with other artists.

In terms of creating a decolonized space that centers Indigenous culture and economic prosperity, the project found that feelings of home and safety, a respectful environment, giving back to the community, and the culture of care as being important qualities for a space. The space should include allowances for spiritual Indigenous practices in policy, as well as accommodating youth-friendly hours, with included safety training and supervision.

Mentorship and retail and gallery opportunities should be provided to a mixed community, including Indigenous artists, which will enhance a sense of inclusion, reduce the sense of segregation, and hopefully nourish further opportunities for collaborations.

My final slide of the findings shows a hierarchy of features in demand for a metal arts hub. Focus group participants were asked to rank a number of features based on the premise of a feature being invaluable from the outset of a creation of a Metal Arts Hub. Highest priority features included:

  • accessible features

  • monthly bench rentals

  • lockers

  • exhibition space

  • low-tech or traditional equipment

Next steps / How to get involved

A further in-depth report will be available from the VMAA website in the future, along with, given positive community feedback, a list of recommendations or guidelines when setting up a shared studio space. If you have any questions or feedback you’d like to add to the study, we are embarking on the second phase, so please feel free to reach out to me, or VMAA by email or through the website or social media.

Some additional discussion by the community ensued; we look forward to sharing a summary of insights at a later date.

Forum Discussions by VMAA Community

Leadership and Term Limits

As VMAA matures as an organization and takes on multi-year projects, we look to consider revisions of bylaws that impose unilateral limitations on board terms for its board of directors. The purpose of these revisions will not be to remove board terms altogether, as we value keeping the organization fresh; however, we are considering a case where the five-year term limit risks the loss of institutional knowledge from the board. Therefore, at the next AGM we may consider bringing forward a motion to amend this bylaw, and to take the opportunity to update a few others.

Policy development

For more than a year now, VMAA has been exploring a membership tier that removes the participation barriers of artists underrepresented in our membership, not least First Nations, Metis, Inuit and members of other Indigenous communities.

VMAA has piloted this over the past year and, with the consultation of the incoming board, will be likely introduce a free or sliding-scale membership tier for First Nations members in the coming year.

As an outcome of reflection via the grant writing and organizational development process, we have also begun to develop policies that anticipate and prevent burnout from volunteerism, and will implement them this year.

Board Election (2023-2024)

The board slate for 2023-2024 read as follows:

  • Ingrid Valou, President

  • Monique Huynh, Vice President

  • Ryan Caron, Treasurer

  • Micaela Kwiatkowski, Secretary

  • Celeste Lucero Maas, Exhibitions Chair

  • Jill Kealy, Education Chair

  • Joy Sotomayor, Social Media Chair

  • Christine Pedersen, Member at Large

  • Cory Douglas, Member at Large

  • Mina Saneei, Member at Large

They were unanimously elected by the membership present.

Community Bulletin

In Search of Space

Those searching for space may wish to check out the following spaces:


The community will be starting up a show-and-tell (portfolio and work critique/discussion) group of some kind and will be welcoming members. Some discussion ensued about whether we could host it at the same location as the AGM, and make it a routine meet-up. Those interested should contact Zula (@zulajewelry on Instagram).

Creative Jewellers Guild

Newcomers should take note of the Creative Jewellers Guild of BC, a 65-year-old group that occasionally meets up for tool demonstrations and getting to know one another. The demographic skews more towards the trade and goldsmiths, so there is both overlap and distinction. There were specific call-outs on their show-and-tell (tool and other demonstrations).

Canadian Jewellers Cafe

If you're looking to buy or sell items, or just to connect with others across Canada, consider joining the Canadian Jewellers Cafe group on Facebook.

MetalAid x VMAA Meetup

On April 26, there will be a MetalAid and VMAA meetup at the Irish Heather Shebeen in Chinatown (248 E Georgia St), from 6-9PM. All are welcome to join and say hello!

The Earring Show opening

The 2023 Earring Show presented by the Craft Council of BC will open on Thursday, May 4, and numerous VMAA members have pieces in it! Be sure to check it out for a great mix of art and production jewellery.

VCC Graduation Show

This year, the VCC jewellery design graduation showcase's opening reception and award ceremony happens on June 3. Be sure to keep an eye on the VCC jewellery design instagram for up-to-date info on times and locations, and join us there to support our new graduates.

Open Calls

There are numerous calls for entries out right now, including one by Co-Adorn closing at the end of May. The best place to keep an eye on some of the best ones is to make sure you're part of the Call for Entries group. And don't forget to keep an eye out in August and September for VMAA's Gifted and as-of-yet-to-be-named 2023-2024 group exhibition!


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